Sand sculptor Mark Dansereau got into building castles like most parents, with an upside down bucket and his young daughter by his side.

But Dansereau, a resident of the small Shuswap Lake community of Blind Bay, took it a step further, perfecting his craft after seeing the joy it brought his daughter Bernadette.

"You just really have to take your time," Dansereau said of castles he builds, which are often taller than the people who come to see them.

Dansereau spends hours carving tiny bricks, window frames and turrets into his castles, which he documents through photos.

Though Dansereau began building with his daughter, he is now the sole architect of his sandy palaces. He lost Bernadette, a blue-eyed little girl with a soft smile, after her sixth birthday.

The girl who loved spending time on the beach with her dad died of cancer, after spending her final months at home surrounded by family.

"Our whole family got very, very close together," Dansereau said of Bernadette's last months.

"After she died, building sandcastles took on a whole new meaning."

The loving father spends hours of his spare time carrying on Bernadette's sandy legacy on the beach, hoping to create a "magical moment" for onlookers.

He said he hopes his sculptures will make people stop and reflect on life, and "wake them up a bit." He also takes photos of the castles, which he's turned into a calendar to give back to his local hospice society.

As sad and untimely as Bernadette's death was, Dansereau said the little girl gave his family a gift when she left them: clarity about what really matters.

"I've never felt such peace and joy in my life as in the last year and a half, because I focus more on the real living, and living in the present moment," he said.

Because a sandcastle, like Bernadette, is only around for a while, but making the most of it is beautiful.